The FilmFollowing an epistle like structure, Confessions is undoubtedly a film with a tremendous impact. Switching between narrations of young and old, teacher and schoolchild, mother and son, it's difficult to not see the film as a comment on generational conflict. The different perspectives allow for some debunking of archetypes of youthful innocence and adult cynicism, but in essence this is a film that attempts to be thematically complex with no real insight into the humanity it explores. This is pure elaboration, fiction without foundation and the cinematic equivalent of knock and run.
It begins brilliantly with the opening confession of the teacher Moriguchi. This compelling segment reveals her as controlled, provoked beyond her limits, and with a coldness that becomes icily vengeful as the revelations tumble from her lips upon her unruly class. In itself, this is some of the most dramatic cinema I have seen in a long time which recalls themes of the late Kinji Fukasaku and freezes the blood whilst breaking the heart. Unfortunately, the film continues into other half baked perspectives, rank nonsensical developments and a hyperbolic mess of cliché and stereotype.Once the focus shifts to the students, upon whom Moriguchi is wreaking revenge, there is a complete lack of insight and a shockingly expedient and manipulative use of these young people to create an impression without any moral message. It is simple rank exploitation and a lack of awareness of the hypocrisy this represents given the story it tells. Sociopaths become excused through narrative and returned to sociopathy when it suits the same narrative and the need for an explosion or two. Madness is acted with all the subtlety of Colonel Gaddafi's public relations efforts, and any attempt to reveal the human is simple grist to the mill when it is carefully ignored in stupid, stupid ramping up of the action.
Now if the action had retained a realistic approach and attempted to unearth the personal with more fidelity, something quite special could have been created here. Instead, the undoubted visual élan is wasted and the work looks gimmicky and occasionally verges on the laughable. In the climax for instance, a would be killer is shot from above as a crowd parts leaving him haloed in a perfect circle much like a bad musical. There are endless moments of slow-mo, accompanied by sub Coldplay art rock which are kind of misery porn for the adolescently arrested; the perspective changing has no real purpose and just extends the film beyond its means and the whole brilliance of the opening is lost in the vapidity of having nothing to say.After the dark and moving first hour, this becomes a movie flirting with Columbine massacres, Almodovar like bad taste and its own inability to decide whether children are our future or little bastards deserving extermination. There is a very good short film here until a really bad second film buggers it up royally - watch the beginning, switch off the TV and you'll not be disappointed.
Tech SpecsPresented for review on a single layer region B encoded disc with the film only, and an extras DVD as well, Confessions carries a strong transfer with a file-size of 21.9GB. Detail is not spectacular, but edges seem natural and colour fidelity is appropriate. There is a lot of contrast within the film and its most potent images and I felt the black levels were a little lacking in the darkest moments. Generally though the transfer is as good as you might legitimately expect from such a small label.There is a sole master audio track offered in the original Japanese language with decent, if not perfect English subtitles which are optional. Given the explosions and use of none too subtle soundtrack music, the audio has a lot to reproduce in terms of the LFE channel and the high end of the treble as well. This is done very well, and the dimensionality created through the 5.1 sound-stage allows for plenty of atmosphere and coverage. Effects are mixed well for a three dimensional impact and if you like the kind of music offered in the later segments of the film you'll find it well presented here.
Special FeaturesThe extras are all available on the DVD in the set. Aside the expected trailer and TV spots, the main extra is a documentary considering the film's success with footage from the shooting of the film cut in with interviews with the director, cast and main crew. Breathless narration trumpets the director's bravery and innovation, and much is divulged in terms of production and intentions.
A raft of, well 22, trailers from Third Window are available here and the final meaningful extra is the views of the young cast on the story, the experience of the film and the "questions" that the film raises. This is a bit like sitting on a bus whilst a very young person recounts their most inconsequential story very loudly on their mobile so that you have no option but to listen to the drivel that passes for fully formed notions in a teenage head. Of course, I may have missed the meaning of life or the answer to the many imponderables of existence whilst watching this featurette on your behalf, but it's not very likely.
SummaryAn excellent first section gives way to juvenilia and an absence of understanding. Confessions comes with a few extras which may please you if you like the whole film more than myself.
5 out of 10
7 out of 10
8 out of 10
6 out of 10